Judge Strikes Down Arkansas Voter ID Law

Apr 24, 2014

File photo of a sign outside a Little Rock polling site in March advising voters to have a photo ID.
Credit Michael Hibblen / KUAR News

Arkansas’s 2013 Voter ID law was struck down Thursday by Pulaski County Circuit Judge Tim Fox. The suit brought by the Pulaski County Election Commission only challenged one provision of the law but Judge Fox’s ruling went beyond the initial scope of the challenge by striking down the entirety of the act. Pulaski County Commissioner Chris Burks says he expected the ruling might go beyond the scope of the complaint.

“The court looked at the law and said yes I’ve been asked to rule on this part of the law but in considering this part of the law I have to consider the whole law and the Constitution of Arkansas. I think the ruling really reflects fidelity with the Arkansas Constitution,” said Burks.

He argued any more changes should wait until after the May primary election.

“It’s important to consider how do you practically administer elections? If you have a ruling taking down the entire law, then you have a stay, I think that promotes confusion. I think the order today was very clear. You want to promote stability within the law you don’t want confusion. I would hope that we can just go forward under the old law and not have the 595 [voter ID law] be put back in place with the state pending appeal,” said Burks.

The Pulaski County Election Commission’s challenge argued the State Board of Election Commissioners overstepped its authority by implementing a supplemental rule, not contained in the legislation, granting absentee voters additional time to show ID. The Pulaski County Election Commission argued only the legislature had the authority to insert such a provision.

Judge Fox found the law, including rules in the original legislation allowing in-person voters additional time to present ID, created unconstitutional barriers to voting. Burks said he believes the ruling, finding the voter ID legislation as presenting an unconstitutional barrier to voting, helps to safeguard Arkansan’s ability to cast a vote.

Republican Bruce Westerman issued the following statement regarding Judge Fox's ruling:

HOT SPRINGS -- Former Arkansas House Majority Leader and Fourth District Congressional Candidate Bruce Westerman (R-Hot Springs) today issued the following statement on today's court ruling striking down the state's Voter ID law:

"I strongly disagree with Judge Fox's determination that a law duly passed by the legislative branch is unenforceable and I look forward to the Attorney General's full-throated appeal of this ruling to the State Supreme Court. The integrity of the ballot box is the bedrock of our republican system, and that is why I was proud to co-sponsor Act 595, vote for Act 595, and vote to override Governor Beebe's veto of Act 595."